When politicians or professors are in need of a historical comparison in order to illustrate the United States’ incredible might, they almost always think of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire included almost the entire then-known world; the United States dominates almost the entire globe since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Are the Americans the Romans of our time?
The differences are inevitably what first come to mind. One was a city-state that acquired everything by using weapons; the other is a federation that grew through settlement, purchase, and economic expansion. One was an aristocracy with full power of initiative; the other was started by a group of dynamic farmers, ship owners, merchants, gold miners, and adventurers. One exemplifies what a state is capable of; the other is proof of how much is possible without the state. There is a world of difference as well with respect to political ideals: the one peopled by pragmatists without any sense of ideology; the other by pragmatists with a missionary zeal for republican values, democracy, and human rights. The source of their power was quite different as well: political instinct, civic discipline, and military might on the one hand; entrepreneurial energy, economic power, and progressive technology on the other. And, in the end, their systems delivered different results: the one a monarchical empire, the other a democratic and economically-driven “informal empire.” In addition to all of this, a distance of two thousand years separates them.